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After just one year of competing as a bodybuilder, La Plata resident Paige Townley has picked up her pro card after a monumental victory in Baltimore last month. Her first love of competitive cheerleading laid the foundation for her, and now she’s enjoying every bit of what she’s worked so hard for in this new arena of competition. Townley, who turns 24 next month, competed at the Organization of Competitive Body Builders Charm City Classic on Oct. 19 in Baltimore and captured the overall win. She defeated 30 women, therefore solidifying her professional status.

She won the bikini open and the bikini novice as well as the overall.

“I think I’m still on cloud nine,” Townley said in a phone interview recently. “I have huge dreams to make my name in the fitness industry, and this is just the beginning. I think this show that I got my pro card at was one of the best days of my life. It was the hardest we’d ever trained to get my body in the best shape.”

Townley now is an official International Fitness and Physique Association Pro Fitness competitor and will begin competing on the IFPA pro circuit in 2014. Her trainer, Heather Traven at La Plata Fitness, is pushing her even harder to help her meet her goals.

“It’s become a lifestyle for me,” Townley said. “I’d like to eventually get my certification in personal training and nutrition. I see what it can do for the average person to help clean up your diet, but for now I have some personal goals I’d like to achieve.

“I didn’t want to go home with second place. I wanted first in my division overall, and I wanted my pro card, and I got it.”

Townley originally was motivated after gaining some extra pounds while in college at Salisbury University where she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in history and a minor in psychology. Townley is also a 2007 graduate of La Plata high school.

“My whole family is very fitness oriented,” Townley said. “My mom, Leslie Tomaselli, has been a fitness trainer for over 30 years, and my brother is very athletic, and when I came home from college, I wasn’t feeling so great and thought, ‘Gosh, I’ve got to get back in better shape.’ I got into the gym, and my mom and my boyfriend, Ritchie Reynolds, encouraged me. I started eating a totally clean diet. No processed foods whatsoever.”

Townley said after six to seven months she started seeing some changes in her body and friends were noticing, as well. Her hard work was paying off.

“People starting asking me if I’d ever thought about competing, and I said, ‘No, I’m just trying to get in shape’,” Townley said, “but I went home and did some research on the fitness industry and the competition. When I was a cheerleader, I loved being on stage. I’m like a ham on stage. I just love it.”

Townley knew that hiring a personal trainer in January was the way to go, and she was willing to invest the money to meet those goals.

“I was supposed to meet with a couple coaches one day, and I walked out of there knowing that [Heather Traven] was going to be my trainer,” Townley said. “She saw through me what I wanted, and I liked her philosophy. We were just on the same page.”

Townley then became interested in the bikini division because it offered her the opportunity to remain feminine in a sport that she once thought wasn’t, and she got on a 12-week plan to start competing in March.

“I’d always looked at the industry as being these big muscular people. Well in the bikini division the judges judge you on being muscular and you have an athletic build, but you still have a femininity about you,” Townley said, “and the women were glamorous.”

Townley placed second in the NPC Eastern USA Championships in the novice and the overall divisions.

“I was looking at these 30-plus women in the competition, and everyone looked great,” Townley said of her first competition. “You’re looking at the best of the best here. They pulled out the first top five on stage, and I was called. That was my goal, to place in top five. They called my number up for second and I thought I was going to faint.”

Townley said she knew that competition was in the arena she wanted to compete in for a very long time.

“I loved it.” Townley said. “Unlike a team sport that I’d participated in growing up, this was all my hard work. This was my diet. Other than all the work that my trainer puts in, this was in a way a totally different self accomplishment. Now I’m pretty hard on myself.”

Townley said she had to keep a balanced body image and not overly examine herself. She still keeps a strenuous routine and works out in the gym twice a day. She starts the day with a cardio session, and after working a nine-hour day, she comes home and works a different body part each day. She is most proud of the fact that she, at 113 pounds, is squatting 225 pounds.

Townley’s long-term goal is to win the prestigious Yorton Cup. The competition is being held in Washington D.C., next year.

For those looking to get into body building, Townley said to do your research, definitely hire a trainer and do not cut corners.

“You need someone to hold you accountable.” Townley said. “Heather has taught me so much. Everybody can benefit from someone like that in their life. Don’t take short cuts. If you give 100 percent, you’re going to get 100 percent.”

tshowalter@somdnews.com